With a brand new donabe, I’ve been planning lots of various hotpot dishes to see us through the winter. We already had a steamboat and before that, I decided to try my hand at budae jjigae, a Korean stew that translates as “army stew”. Unlike western stews, Korean stews are simmered for a short amount of time, until everything is cooked. It is said that the ingredients in this stew were used in the areas around the American army bases when the surplus food required use, which explains the hot dogs and Spam. These ingredients were incorporated into a more traditional gochujang (Korean chili paste – the kind in a red tub at most Asian grocers) based stew. Hot dogs? Spam? I definitely had to try it!

After Adding the Ramen

Some pictorial inspiration was provided by this impressive blog post by BigHominid! Mine turned out to be a little light on ingredients and I had stupidly forgotten to add the mushrooms that I had purchased. But you know what? It was still good eating! I added a package of Shin Ramyun to my jigae which gives both an addition to the soup base and some nice tender noodles in the stew. We had bowlfuls of white rice with the stew ladled overtop and then bowlfuls of the noodles after that. Watch out – the gochujang is quite spicy and you can always start with a bit and add more later.

If you’re using a new donabe, don’t forget to prepare it according to the included instructions. If your instructions were in Japanese as mine were, here are some general donabe preperation tips I found online. Of course, you can use any large saute pan, though a pot will do in a pinch.

Closeup of the Budae Jjigae

Budae Jjigae
serves 2 – 3

1 tin Spam (I use Spam Lite – I prefer it as it has less salt), sliced
4 frankfurters/wieners, sliced on the diagonal
3 spring onions, cut into large pieces
1 package Shin Ramyun
1 heaped tbsp gochujang (Korean chili paste)
6-7 leaves of Chinese cabbage (aka Chinese leaf), cut into large pieces

Other lovely things that can be added:
potato slices
dduk (Korean rice cakes)
mushrooms, all sorts
baked beans
onion slices
sliced garlic
ground beef

In a large donabe, place the gochujang and the spice packet from the ramen (this bit’s optional!) at the bottom. On top of that all, arrange your ingredients in a pleasing manner. I have no idea why but it does look great if you’re going to boil it in front of everyone at the table.

Place your donabe pot on your cold stove, or portable stove if you have one, and pour cold water into the pot until all the ingredients are almost submerged. Turn on your stove to high and turn it down to a medium heat when the water boils. Stir to get all the things on top to the bottom and have everything cook evenly. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes and serve with plenty of white rice.